DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: My boyfriend and I have been together for almost 6 years, since we were 15 years old. We’ve had a good relationship, but a half a year ago, I started feeling less attracted to him. Giving him physical attention didn’t come as easily as it should. I thought it would get better eventually as I was also not feeling well mentally at that time.
But then I met another person, when I first saw him, I was already attracted to him. I started talking to him on Facebook and we became friends. But the problem is that I have fallen in love with this person and I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t even know if he is interested in me. To me it’s clear that I am more interested in him than he’s in me as he sometimes ignores my messages and says he forgot to answer them.
I still love my boyfriend, and because we’ve been together for almost 6 years, it’s not easy to say goodbye. I also don’t know if the other guy and me would be a good match. We go to the same school but we don’t really talk in person the same as we do online. (This is also because I am really shy.) There isn’t also a possibility anymore to talk to him in person, unless we would meet up, because he’s abroad for 2 months.
DEAR CONFUSED POTATO: Let’s leave the other guy out of this for now, Potato. Attraction happens. Crushes happen. They happen even when you’re otherwise perfectly happy with your partner. This has nothing to do with the state of your relationship or your feelings for somebody and everything to do with the fact that you’re a mammal with a sex drive. So just let that slide for now while we focus on the main problem.
And that’s how you feel about your boyfriend.
The biggest issue is, frankly, when you got together. 9 times out of 10, the relationships we start in our teens aren’t our last ones. We’re still growing and developing and learning who we are, and those changes tend to mean that who we loved and why don’t remain the same. This doesn’t say anything about your affection for your boyfriend or the strength of your commitment, just that you’re not who you were when you started.
Relationships change over time, just as people do. Who you are now is different from who you were when you first started dating and what brought you two together may have changed as you two did. Not every relationship ends because of major drama, or because somebody did something wrong. Sometimes it’s just that the relationship has come to the end of it’s natural life and it’s nobody’s fault.
Sometimes attraction can fade because people quit trying. Sometimes it can fade because there’s an unmet need for novelty or someone (or both partners) are bored. You can pull back from those and reignite that spark. Other times, it fades because… well, you’re just not the same people. It can be hard to pull the plug on those times because you’ve sunk in so much time and it’s hard to let go because… well, wouldn’t that mean you wasted that time?
But it’s not wasted, if the two of you were happy while you were together. Similarly, it doesn’t mean that your relationship was a failure because one or both of you didn’t die in the saddle; it’s possible to realize that you were both meant to be together for a time and then it’s time to go your separate ways. If you two can still look back on your relationship with fondness and have some affection for one another after you’ve broken up, that’s an unqualified success.
Take a little time to sort out how you feel about your boyfriend… without the other guy in the picture. If you come to the realization that your relationship has reached it’s natural conclusion, then the best thing you can do is end things, quickly and cleanly.
And let that other guy go; it sounds to me like he’s not into you anyway.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I am currently in college. Two of my classes are back-to-back, totaling 6 hours of class time at once, once a week. I share both classes with a guy I sit next to, and we get along pretty well. He likes me well enough to hang back between classes and wait for me so we can walk together. I like him well enough that, were I not happily married, I might ask him out.
Here’s my problem. He’s pretty funny, but self-deprecating. Now, a lot of humor comes form self-deprecation, especially done well. Except, I think he means it. He made a joke about, “bathing in self-loathing,” but it makes his hair shiny, so he has that going for him. In context, it was hilarious, and I laughed. Since then, though, I’ve been a little worried.
Mostly, though, my problem is that I’m not sure how to respond to him. Should I just keep laughing, or should I address my concern?
DEAR COLLEGE FRIEND: There’s usually a pretty clear demarcation between “self-depricating humor” and “making jokes so you’ll pity him”. Part of it is how he talks about himself when he’s not making jokes. Is he down on himself or generally negative about his life in general? Is he able to laugh at himself, or does he do that thing where he laughs, but it’s clear that the smiles don’t reach his eyes? Is he able to take a compliment without brushing it off or acting like you’re a crazy person for thinking he’s not a loathsome slug?
(And to be honest: the bit about making his hair shiny is pretty clever…)
If you’re especially worried, you can always tell him that sometimes his jokes don’t sound entirely like jokes. But on the whole, it sounds like he’s got a clever sense of humor, and appreciates that you get him.
Laughing along’s not a problem, as long as he understands that you’re laughing at his jokes, not at him. Telling him he’s funny/clever, etc. is a good way of separating the joke from the person. Reminding him of the things you like about him is also good. Unless he’s giving off the Eeyore signal or making a point of being desperate for approval, I think you’re ok enjoying his jokes.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com